With the No. 54 pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings end the skid of Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander.
How Alexander dropped to the end of the second round is a mystery, except to say that a lot of teams have biases against 5' 10" cornerbacks when they shouldn’t. Alexander is the best man coverage cornerback in this class, and he’ll be a perfect fit in Mike Zimmer’s aggressive defense. In the slot or outside, Alexander is at least a round better than this pick would indicate.
Strengths: Alexander has the best mirroring and transition speed of any cornerback in this class. Takes his receiver seamlessly from the first step throughout the route, and turns and flips on a dime to stay with them through quick-breaking and option routes. Has the chase and recovery speed to close in and deflect passes with good timing. Understands his movement in the deep routes, and gets his hand on the receiver and tracks the ball well throughout the throw. Great with angles and will use his body to cut routes to the quick. Transitions between man and bail coverage seamlessly, which is a process that many NFL cornerbacks find tough to handle. Excellent economy of motion allows him to play the entire field well.
Very contentious, competitive player who keeps the fight going all the way through—his battle against Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard last season is a must-watch. Plays wide and tall coverage as an outside corner out of necessity; Clemson’s schemes left him without help in curl/flat routes and over the top at times. Good musculature for the position and will throw his body around against the run. Takes it upon himself to bring his game to a different level.
Weaknesses: In Alexander’s case, height is an issue—he was especially flummoxed by North Carolina’s bigger receivers on intermediate angle routes, and he’ll be tested on this non-stop in the NFL. Will need to develop his off-coverage skills if he’s drafted by a team that requires them; at this point, he’s better when he’s following the receiver from the first step. Needs to be more of a wrap tackler and less of a shoulder-shiver player. Needs to make sure he keeps his emotions in check, as he could be taken out of his game emotionally by craftier NFL receivers.